The philosophy of the Renaissance and Humanism as an epoch (approx. before 1400 to after 1600) is a section of the history of philosophy that can be viewed as a transition from the philosophy of the Middle Ages, which is entirely under the primacy of theology, to the philosophy of the modern age.
Renaissance means rebirth. The period is so named because the texts of the ancient Greek and Roman philosophers were newly received and at the same time a detachment from the medieval schools of scholasticism took place. The philosophy of the Renaissance and Humanism, and with it the study of humanism, was still very much connected to medieval traditions in its working method , so it worked speculatively and textually, but it opened up more and more to existing scientific questions and methods that will form the dominant theme of modern philosophy. The educational movement of Renaissance humanism , which was primarily literary, was of particular importance and had a great influence on the philosophy of this epoch .
Starting points of the new thinking
Usually the period of the 15th and 16th centuries is referred to as Renaissance , with the beginning and end of the period extending beyond this. It is a time of economic boom in the cities and the big trading houses ( Hanseatic League , Fugger, Medici ) and the age of discovery. It is the time when the bourgeoisie gained more and more weight and acquired education. Technical innovations such as the further development of the compass, gunpowder, weight wheel clocks (approx. 1300) and spring-loaded clocks (approx. 1400), a pronounced growth in ore mining because of the minting rights that the sovereigns haddue to the golden bull of Charles IV, and the invention of the printing press (around 1450) show the tremendous spirit of optimism at this time. The increasing weakness of the church in relation to the empire becomes apparent in the papal exile in Avignon (1309–1377), in the great schism (1378–1417) and in the subsequent councils of Constance and Basel .
The roots of Renaissance thinking go back to the 13th century. The universities replaced the monastery and cathedral schools in increasing numbers. Education broadened, and with the Artes Liberales also general philosophical knowledge. Among the philosophers, Scotus (1266–1308) advocated a sharper separation of faith and reason and thus opened the door to the “via moderna” of the nominalism of Occam (1285–1349). Roger Bacon (1214–1294) should be emphasized as an important innovator , according to which science must be strictly separated from theology and empirically with experiments and mathematics has to be operated; Petrus Peregrinus, who was the first to describe the polarity of the compass, Dietrich von Freiberg (ca. 1245-1318) with the exploration of the rainbow, or Marsilius of Padua (1275-1343), who in the writing Defensor Pacis (Defender of Peace) advocated a republican society up to the church and after his condemnation by the Pope, like Ockham, had to seek protection from Ludwig the Bavarian in Munich. In a time of ever growing cities in Italy that were becoming more and more independent of the Church, it was above all the poets and artists who used the free spaces and developed their own ways of looking at the world..
Particularly noteworthy among the poets are Dante Alighieri (1265–1321), who was still strongly attached to medieval thought, with his Divine Comedy and his philosophical writing Monarchia , Petrarca (1304–1374), who as a writer of Humanism was critical of Scholasticism and Aristotelianism ( About his and many others ignorance ), and his Florentine friend Boccaccio (1313-1375), who is considered the founder of the Italian novella.
Coluccio Salutati (1331–1406), who was personally acquainted with Petrarch, had an in-depth knowledge of Roman literature and, as chancellor, advocated humanism and civil liberty, was also important for the development in Florence. Among other things, Salutati set up a chair for the Greek language. His student Leonardo Bruni (1369–1444) was also his successor. Bruni became known through translations by Plato, Aristotle and other Greek philosophers and wrote literary texts himself. Later well-known Renaissance writers are Torquato Tasso (1544–1594), François Rabelais (1494–1553), Erasmus of Rotterdam (1466–1536) and Philipp Melanchthon (1497–1560), and not least William Shakespeare.
Famous artists include: the pioneers, with the painter Giotto (1267–1337), who was friends with Dante, the outstanding sculptor Donatello (1386–1466) with his large free-standing bronze statues, the painter Sandro Botticelli (1445–1510), famous for his allegories and paintings of Greek mythologies, and the universal genius Leonardo da Vinci (1452–1519), who achieved excellence not only in art, but also in technology, architecture, anatomy and other areas; furthermore Hans Holbein (1465–1524), Albrecht Dürer (1471–1528), Michelangelo Buonarroti (1475–1564), Tizian (1477–1576) or Raffael (1483–1520). They were all united by the ideal of the union of antiquity and nature, which led them to increasingly naturalistic representations.
The discussion about its need for reform triggered by the encrustation of the church in scholasticism led to the Reformation despite the reform councils (Basel, Constance) under the heading “Back to Scripture”. It was not associated with an independent philosophical movement, but, like Humanism, stood for the renewal of thought with an emphasis on the role of the individual. It was no longer the Pope’s commandments, but rather individual faith that became the standard. Forerunners were Wycliff (1330-1384), who had questioned the sacraments and turned against the ecclesiastical hierarchy, and Jan Hus (1369-1415), who had been burned as a heretic because of similar views. The final break came with Martin Luther (1483–1546), Ulrich Zwingli (1484–1531) and Johannes Calvin (1509–1564). Johannes Oekolampad worked in Basel and Wolfgang Capito in Strasbourg. Religious rites such as pilgrimages, mortifications, etc. the like, were rejected, as were letters of indulgence and purchase of offices. What counted was the word through which man finds God. This was the motive for the powerful translation of the Bible. If anything, Luther stood in the tradition of Augustine and rejected the Aristotle-oriented scholastic philosophy as the pillar of the papal reign. Despite this great distance from philosophy and modern natural science, the Reformation made a major contribution to the spiritual renewal and decline in power of the church, with the result that schools and universities were secularized. The Peasant Wars (1525) intensified this effect as the victory of the princes further consolidated their position. This tendency could no longer be stopped by the internal cleansing of the church (Catholic reform) in advance or in the course of the Counter-Reformation. The individualization of belief promoted in the Reformation made the further secularization of philosophy and the development of deist ideas possible in the early modern period.
Philosophy and natural sciences
The Portuguese Alvarus Thomaz followed up on the Oxford Calculators from Merton College and dealt primarily with issues of movement and change. The transition to the new era is also clearly shown by the Italian natural philosopher Girolamo Cardano (1501–1576), physician and mathematician, known for the cardan joint he invented, banned from teaching at the age of the Inquisition; Bernardo Telesio (1509–1588), Francesco Patrizi (1529–1597), teacher of Platonic philosophy at the University of Rome, and Tommaso Campanella (1568–1639), who spent 27 years in prison because of his Reformation ideas from the Inquisition. In his utopian state draft, La città del Sole (The City of the Sun), a priest-king (Sol) rules together with the three princes Pon (potestas – responsible for the army), Sin (sapientia – science) and Mor (amor – education). All people in this state are equal and have a tightly regulated life. Influenced by Nikolaus von Kues and the pantheistic thinking of his time, Giordano Bruno (1548–1600) taught the infinity of the universe. God is the greatest and the smallest, possibility and reality in one. God is not outside, but in the world. Nature itself is divine and in eternal change, God is the principle of eternal change and for human reason cannot be recognized otherwise than indirectly in nature. Hence the incarnation of God is not possible either. These pantheistic ideas led to arrest by the Inquisition and, after seven years in prison, to execution at the stake.
Nicolaus Copernicus (1473–1543), who made a significant contribution to the establishment of the heliocentric worldview through his observations, is less philosophically oriented than known for his scientific achievements. Galileo Galilei (1564–1642), famous for his experiments with falling and the laws of motion derived from them, laid the foundations for mechanics. He also stood up for the teaching of Copernicus, but had to withdraw in old age due to pressure from the Inquisition. He is credited with the defiant saying: “And yet it turns.” His commitment to the application of mathematics in natural research has had a decisive influence on the development of the sciences: “The great book of nature lies open before us. In order to read it better, we need mathematics because it is written in mathematical language ”. This also applies to Johannes Kepler (1571–1630), who confirmed Copernicus with his calculations and promoted the application of mathematics: “The human mind sees through quantitative relationships most clearly; he is actually made to understand them.” The work of these natural scientists was predominantly at the end of the Renaissance and led over into the modern age, of which one can say that philosophy as well as natural science has finally emancipated itself from theology.
Swimming is another example of new thinking. In the Middle Ages it was still regarded as unnatural and used as a divine judgment, so the philosophy professor Everad Digby carried out biomechanical swimming experiments in the water in Cambridge, discussed the specific weight and developed a modern swimming theory, which (in French translation) was the basis of the swimming training of the Napoleon Army. It was the time when rules and laws were developed for many sports.